While UK quintet As Lions is a new project that just released their debut full length, Selfish Age, on Friday, it’s not like they haven’t paid their dues. They had an EP come out last year, and three-fifths of the band spent time together as the band Rise to Remain before that outfit broke up in 2015. In addition, frontman Austin Dickinson’s father is Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson, so it’s not like he doesn’t have a wealth of knowledge at his fingertips about how to survive in the music industry. We caught up with the junior of the two to chat about what led to his last band breaking up, the metal scene (and Brexit) in the UK, and more.
What led to Rise to Remain breaking up and As Lions starting?
We were in the middle of doing our second album and we’d already had a lineup change in our rhythm section. Our guitarist had a lot of problems and a lot of mental health issues going on and he decided to sort of take control of that and he stepped back and just quit music altogether. Which to be honest, the only thing you really have is your health and we all supported him in it; he’s our friend first and foremost. So after that, I’m not going to pretend it wasn’t a bit gutting, it was, but at the same time it was like, ‘Do we go to do another Rise to Remain album with two people carrying over from the debut?’ No, that’s kind of short-changing people I feel. I think that’s not an accurate representation of what we set out to do or what we wanted to happen or band we wanted to be. Instead As Lions came about because I saw the opportunity to go do something brand new with Will and Connor and we were very much on the same page. ‘Let’s just go and write music and make it as big as possible.’ We had all these songs floating around anyway that we absolutely fucking loved that we couldn’t have used for Rise to Remain so that was kind of the beginning.
Other than a few different members, how would you say the bands differ?
I think Rise to Remain is a very progressive metalcore band and I very much think that As Lions is very much a rock band or a hard rock band, with still kind of progressive elements. We still incorporate a lot of different textures and sonic textures into our music deliberately for that, but I think they different especially in vocals. They differ in structure, I’d say As Lions is definitely more of a dynamic band because we have the ability to not constantly be on 10 all the time and have to be on 10 constantly and actually begin to build the song and flesh out the emotion of it. We’ve got a great set of sonic range in terms of textures and what instruments we’ve used for really nailing down the story and the sound and vibe of the songs. So I’d say in a nutshell poses the two main differences between the bands.
It seems upon listening to it that it was definitely influenced by American rock.
I think it was influenced by American rock, it’s kind of just a worldly album. I get some people saying that some songs sound incredibly European, some sound incredibly American, sometimes we sound like a band that’s absolutely undeniably from the UK. I think that there’s a lot of influences on the album and it doesn’t really sound like anyone in the UK right now and that’s what kind of excited me to be honest. No one here was really doing it at our age and we’re like ‘Great, that’s fantastic’ because that’s music this is music that’s absolutely 100% true to what we love and what we want to create. We’re lucky to have this opportunity to do it so let’s give it hell and do exactly what we want.
What’s the current state of hard rock and metal in the UK? I know it’s been dominated by top 40 and dance music in the past.
I think we’ve got a fantastic scene at a very grassroots level that’s very supportive. There’s a bit of a monopoly sometimes with bands that do the same thing over and over and over again with the same people and get a bit predictable. I think the fans are very savvy as well, and they know when they’re being short–changed and know when a band is trying to make a blatant break for it. I’ve got respect for them because I am one of them, truth be told. I grew up listening to local bands, going to local shows, and then eventually playing local shows and eventually booed at local shows (laughs). I think the UK scene is particularly strong; Bring Me the Horizon, a world beating band right now and within Europe there’s a lot of bands. There’s While She Sleeps, Enter Shikari, there are all of these bands that are doing their own thing unapologetically and absolutely benefiting from it and showing people that you can be yourself and have your own sound and making that work, I think it’s pretty fucking cool.
A big question in America is ‘Who is the next Metallica? Who’s the next arena headliner?’ and you’ve got at least one of those in Bring Me the Horizon. Are there any other bands you think that are going to make that jump?
The thing is, the band can make the jump and then fall incredibly hard. I think it’s never really the first single that’s most exciting, or the second; it’s really the third because that’s when you realize the pot of spaghetti you just threw at the wall truly sticks. I think Avenged Sevenfold took a big risk but they’re proving themselves to be absolute fucking arena/stadium headliners. They’re actually being progressive and I admire them hugely. I think that Bring Me the Horizon are just getting started. I’d love to see them get even bigger and see them do even more. I’d love to see them have a bit more guitars again but that’s just me, it’s just a taste thing. I think it’s kind of hard to predict, you know, I don’t know if Royal Blood were going to do it. It’s weird that they’re so new but it feels like they’re old. Maybe it’s that second record is taking ages. I’m absolutely ready to have the carpet pulled from under my feet and have somebody jam their fucking music down my throat because to be honest, that’s really what gets me; that absolute reactive ‘Oh my god that’s so fucking cool’ approach. We could talk about it for hours, but we really just need someone to be proactive and pull that fucking carpet.
How, if in any way, has Brexit affected you guys?
I’ve never really been more ashamed of my country to be honest. The country I was born in has always had its doors open as long as I’ve been on it and it’s very upsetting to leave the EU because I absolutely consider myself to be 100% European. I see it very much as a community. I will begin to see how it effects us when the legislation comes in for travel and for what documents we’ll actually need to procure in order to go to Europe and Germany and all the major markets in Europe. As a person I’m upset we turned our back on so many people who have been there for us in the past and who need our help very desperately right now.
I’m sure you’re asked this constantly, but your dad is in a little band some people might have heard of, might have not. How often do you talk to him about the industry? Does he give you advice? Do you check in with him about things?
We don’t really talk about Samson that much anymore. We sort of left it in the past. Him being in the little band Samson (laughter). No, not really that much. He’s the guy in the sweatpants on the couch to me, he is my dad, that’s pretty much it. We go out to the pub and talk about the fish, go back, watch a couple of horror movies and sort of wobble off to bed at some point whenever I’m around my parent’s house. It’s incredibly boring, very mundane and down to earth, you know, the way it should be. Sometimes I ask him for advice if I’m feeling like something is a bad idea.
What do you think of the Iron Maiden Trooper beer?
It’s alright, it’s pretty good. Not bad at all, I’m definitely an ale drinker. I like EFB and London Pride. There’s a company called Fullers around the corner from where my parents live so that’s what I used to sneak when I was a teenager, this fucking unbelievably strong ale so I’ve kind of always had a bit of a stomach for it.
Who’s your dream tour? Who do you want to tour with the most right now?
Part of me right now, just because of how much I’ve been listening to them, wants to say fucking Ghost. I’ve toured with Ghost before and I absolutely love them. I believe we actually did their first tour with them back when they had Opus Eponymous out. It was Rise to Remain, Trivium, In Flames, and Ghost. It was the craziest lineup and it was just magical. I’d say Linkin Park, Metallica, Bowie (laughter).
Selfish Age is out now on Better Noise records.